Series Recommendation: Kurogane no Linebarrels [Manga ver]


Mecha is a very visual genre, we love seeing giant, medium and small robots in action on the screen, executing cool attacks and manoeuvres. Which is why anime or games with animation is usually the go-to for mecha fans, and other media are not as favored. However, there are cases where the still drawing exceed an animation’s quality, giving us a better experience overall. And that applies to Kurogane no Linebarrels – aka Linebarrels of Iron – a manga that take the absurdity of mecha to the next level!

Linebarrels is a manga written and illustrated by the famous duo Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi. They are also known for Getter Robo Devolution as well as the ULTRAMAN manga (where they equip Ultra Suits). The story of Linebarrels follow a boy named Kouichi Hayase – who was a crybaby and was bullied a lot by delinquents, always having to hide behind his friend Yaejima. Kouichi thirsts for power – and one day it came to him…at the cost of his life. A giant robot crash-landed right on top of him, which should have killed him outright. However, he was resurrected by the mysterious robot called Linebarrels and became its Factor. Now, holding immense power in hand, Kouichi tries to have a go at being an Ally of Justice – protecting the weak and punishing evil. However, he will soon come to face what “true” Justice really means, and what “true” Evil is capable of.

+ Plot: Linebarrels started out with a very typical premise of a weak protagonist gaining power through some incredulous event. However, it mixes in some unique stuff like having the protag actually “died”. Furthermore, the protagonist is a mix of an idealist and a oblivious youngster. He was weak, always running away, but the moment he gained power, he became self-centered, arrogant and a show-off. Usually, we don’t see mecha protag having that psych development, they are either righteous from the start, or is, well, a scaredy-cat, one extreme or the other. Having Kouichi going full “Bully Maguire” after just a few minutes is very interesting and setup a great basis for his development.

Throughout the story, Kouichi grew alot and came to understand what the “Justice” that he should really stand up for means. It’s not the puny “kick the bully’s asses” sorta Justice that he has always envisioned, but it’s something far larger than himself and others. He realized that after coming face-to-face with the truth of the world, the truth of mankind and many other things. From such a cringy and edgy start to the greatest hero of all time – a very realistic yet grand journey that isn’t usually depicted elsewhere.

For Kouichi to reach the point of maturity and transform his ideals, of course we can’t exclude the supporting cast, most importantly his “soulmate” Emi Kizaki. Every hero needs a princess, but Emi isn’t just simply a princess. She helped Kouichi see himself for what he truly is. Is he a hero? or just a kid with a giant robot playing saviour? Emi is very crucial in Kouichi’s development, but she isn’t simply just a plot device – but has her own arc and development as well. Eiichi Shimizu did a very good job fleshing out a lot of the supporting cast, giving them their moments when they need it the most and when we least expected it. He’s famous for going in ridiculous and absurd direction with his story, but thanks to that the manga isn’t repetitive and boring, but it could also blow your mind quite hard and leave you confused for days!

+ Art: Tomohiro-sensei is really really good at making sketchy, rough edges look awesome and badass. When you really dissect his style, it’s mostly consist of a lot of straight edges, and the details on certain panels aren’t high, if not to say just straight up simple. But during crucial panels where the manga focuses on something, the level of details is through the roof. Of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t draw curves, he can draw all kinds of shapes, but he mostly utilize straight, sketchy edges to signify a very straightforward and decisive motion, making you feel the intensity and weight of said action. As I said, mecha is a very visual genre, and using manga to depict giant robots fighting rely heavily on the imagination of the readers being able to construct the scene in their mind. Thanks to expert use of shadow shading, motion effect and simulated lens flare, Linebarrels successfully conveyed the awesomeness of the Machinas.

+ Mecha Design: The mechs in Linebarrels are referred to as “Machina”. Their sizes are varied but the main ones are usually about 20-25 meters. The authors really take a lot of liberty with the Machina’s design, but still sticking to some fundamentals when designing the hero unit. The Machinas are basically tailored made to their own Factors/pilots, so you can pretty much treat them as their own unique super prototype/super robot. But there’s one thing in common for all of his Machinas: N.O F.E.E.T. It has really turned into Eichii and Tomohiro’s iconic design style. They really want to streamline their mechs as much as possible, going full Zone of the Ender on whatever they can.

The main mecha – the Linebarrel – is very reminiscent of a Japanese Samurai, with lots of armor plates that mimic a Samurai armor. Furthermore, the 3-way mitsudomoe symbols spread across the mech also suggest a strong tie to Japanese’s mythology. I mean, to be fair, it uses katanas as its melee weapon. Also, the Linebarrel subscribe to the Wild Wurger school of storing katana on its forearm, which give it another unique and cool points. WHen you look at the Linebarrel (or any Machina) model outside of the manga, there are some parts that look a bit ridiculous if you examine it closely, but in the manga, by using clever angles and cutting off some parts of the Machina, they managed to show the Machinas as cool looking and menacing death machines.

+ Conclusion: Even though it has an anime-adaptation, the anime Linebarrels go into a different plotline after the first initial setup, which sorta divert back to the typical mecha mc development, whereas the manga take it a step further and create some mind-numbingly event that really put the characterization of the cast to the test. The Linebarrels manga is overall a much better experience – both visually and story-wise – which is very rare for series with an anime adaptation. Linebarrels is a really wild ride that will take you from one absurdity to the next – some that might even leave you question what the hell you are reading – but overall, it highlights the “heroism” that struggle for “true Justice” – and it is something that can only be found after a hard struggle – not just from falling into one’s lap. If you can, look for the “Over Edition” of the manga – which feature an extended ending that will really cap off the series nicely!

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